In a victory of sorts for the Election Commission, security personnel and administrative officials engaged in Chhattisgarh Assembly elections, polling percentage in some seats in the Naxal-affected areas went up by as high as 19 per cent, while there was a steep decline in poll-related violence.

Overall, elections in phase-I covered 13 seats falling in Naxal-strongholds spread in seven districts which saw average polling going up by over five per cent compared to 2008 Assembly elections.

Except for two, all other constituencies saw major improvement in polling percentage. The maximum improvement of 19 percentage points was recorded in Bijapur (48 per cent in 2013 against 29 per cent in 2008), which was followed by Bhanupratappur at 12 per cent (78 per cent in 2013 versus 66 per cent in 2008). Similarly, 11 per cent hike in polling was registered in Keshkal (83 per cent versus 72 per cent) and Narayanpur (72 per cent versus 61 per cent).

Other Assembly seats that saw good increase in turnout include Chitrakot, where polling went up by 10 per cent (75 per cent in 2013 vs 65 per cent in 2008), while 9 per cent hike was seen in Kanker (80 per cent vs 71 per cent), 8 per cent in Bastar (83 per cent vs 75 per cent) and 7 per cent in Mohla-Manpur (79 per cent vs 72 per cent). A marginal hike in voting was seen in two seats — four per cent in Kondagaon (83 per cent vs 79 per cent) and one per cent in Jagdalpur (73 per cent vs 72 per cent).

Polling percentage in Dantewada dips

However, there were two constituencies that saw dip in polling percentage. Naxal stronghold of Dantewada saw a decline of five per cent (51 per cent in 2013 vs 56 per cent in 2008), while three per cent dip was recorded in Antagarh (58 in 2013 vs 61 per cent in 2008). “But there is still scope for further improvement in polling percentage as we are yet to receive reports about a few more polling stations. The data so far shows a remarkable improvement in voting percentage in Naxal-hit areas…People have chosen ballot over bullet,” said a Home Ministry spokesperson.

Another important aspect of this year’s elections has been decline in incidents of poll-related violence, which has come down from 170 in 2008 to 45 this year in phase-I of elections, while the number of security personnel killed has declined from 15 to three and civilians from 18 to four.

However, the number of Maoists killed in clashes with security forces went up from five in 2008 to nine in 2013.

“Heavy deployment of security forces, particularly well-trained paramilitary forces, helped in smooth conduct of these crucial elections. All these resulted in high polling percentage, even in remotely located booths,” the spokesperson said. Apart from the State police personnel, a total of 562 companies or 56,200 personnel of central paramilitary forces were deployed, which is additional to 40 battalions that are already engaged anti-Naxal operations in the state.

While planning the two-phase polls in Chhattisgarh, the Election Commission considered the pattern of deployment of the Central armed police forces and preferred to go ahead with the polls in Naxal-infested areas first.

The argument in favour of holding polls in Maoist strongholds was that the police forces, including those from outside the State, would be fresh from crash training and ready for deployment. Otherwise, sources in the EC said, going for the polls last in the Naxal-infested areas would mean that forces would have already felt tired after doing duty in the first phase of polls.